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September 4, 2008

Under The Knife

Windy City Panic Attack

by Will Carroll

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Carlos Zambrano (10 DXL)
The Big Z isn't feeling good, and even Lou Piniella, just days after insisting that Zambrano was fine, is admitting that something is wrong. After five innings of bad baseball, the Cubs are sending Zambrano to see the team orthopedist and will likely be shutting him down. This can be hard to manage at this time of year; if Zambrano is shut down for two weeks, he'll have to come back ready to go in order to get in a couple of starts before the playoffs. Would the Cubs be willing to put Zambrano out there in the Division Series without at least one good regular season start? Zambrano is clearly the ace of this staff, so this isn't exactly an Aaron Cook situation. The most worrisome aspects of Zambrano's start were the arm angle and the quick drop in velocity. By the third inning, he was down from 93 to 90, and by the fourth and fifth he was exerting more effort just to stay in the 90 range. The extra time off might have made him stronger in the early going, but it didn't last time out. The Cubs are going to have to make some some tough decisions soon, but they'll be waiting for word from the doctors first. I don't anticipate good news, and there is late word that Zambrano refused to have an MRI Wednesday, perhaps anticipating a visit elsewhere.

Carlos Quentin (7 DXL)
Joe Crede (5 DXL)

The White Sox seem to be carried by one player at a time, never slumping enough as a team to let the Twins catch up. The worry now is that some of the lingering injuries will cost them, but no team does a better job keeping players healthy. Still, even the best staff can't stop everything. Quentin has been dealing with a forearm strain-I'm told it's a tendon-for over a month, but it's become worse over the past few weeks. The team has essentially shut him down, and they won't get him back before at least the weekend. This is something that will need even more time to work itself out, though my sources seem to think that the medical staff has a pretty good handle on the situation. The problem isn't as easy with Crede; his back is acting up again, and while the team is downplaying this, they're also worried that Crede's uncertain status will force them to make some changes. Sources believe that Crede will be back by the weekend, but they also note that the team has options if Crede needs an extended rest.

Billy Wagner (30 DXL)
Pedro Martinez (7 DXL)

Things look good for Wagner, making the doctor's advice of a few weeks of rest appear to be an adequate fix. After a bullpen session that went well on Monday, he was able to go 36 pitches on Wednesday with no problem. If there's any downside, it's that one observer who saw the session said that Wagner is still not throwing "in anger; it's 85 to 90 percent. " This is important, because Wagner had no trouble last time until he started to throw all-out. The Mets will have Wagner throw again on Friday. Note that he's not throwing on back-to-back days, something that could portend some limitation. The Mets are also dealing with something new with Pedro, who said he was unable to get loose in his last start. He was showing both velocity and command problems, and the Mets have sent him back home to work with his rehab guru, Chris Correnti. The team is prepped to skip Martinez's Saturday start if Correnti doesn't give them the green light.

Ben Sheets (0 DXL)
"Very, very minor." That's how Sheets described his groin strain. I'm not changing my position on players being the worst judges of their own injuries, but Sheets is known to be a bit of a hypochondriac. If he's not that concerned, it's probably... very, very minor. This is the same area that cost Sheets the last two weeks of the '07 season, but this isn't quite as serious. Sheets will be watched closely, and delayed or pulled quickly at any sign of trouble, but no one seems terribly concerned that he won't make his next start. The team needs Sheets to be healthy to prevent exposing their bullpen, and the news that Yovanni Gallardo might be available soon is opening up some interesting possibilities.

B.J. Upton (0 DXL)
It appears that Upton's lax shoulder might be more than just loose. The continual popping in and out stretches the area structurally, and according to one source it's caused a tear in his labrum. It's in his left shoulder and affecting his swing more than his throwing, though if the labrum is torn it's hard to tell how it's affecting him at the plate, given his relatively stable rate stats the past month or so. The chronic problem appears to be something that Upton knows how to deal with, and that the Rays have a good handle on. That he's not taking batting practice is a bit worrisome, but as long as he continues to get the job done on the field, the Rays can't be too concerned.

Jesus Flores (10 DXL)
If you watch the play develop, it wasn't the shoulder-to-shoulder collision that was the problem for Flores. Instead, it was that he was lower than Chase Utley and held his ground on impact. Utley didn't go through Flores, but had his momentum stopped enough that his body dropped onto Flores' bent left leg. When the extra weight dropped, Flores' ankle took the stress. Images were negative, though it was painful and swollen a day later. There is no timetable for his return, and as one of the few bright spots for the Nats this season, I hope they'll be conservative with him.

Yunel Escobar (3 DXL)
The Braves are out of it, and that fact might end Escobar's season. He's been fighting through a moderate shoulder injury all year, and now that it's been revealed that his injury this week was to the elbow and not the same shoulder, we have to wonder if the Braves will point him to the shelf and tell him to get ready for next season. Escobar seems inclined to keep playing and wait to have have surgery in the offseason, but we'll have to see how the Braves perceive the value of this. For a fantasy owner, it's time to have a backup at the ready.

Joba Chamberlain (0 DXL)
One of the things I've learned over the course of my career is that there's a big gap in our knowledge of pitching workloads. With relievers in high-leverage situations, there's a multiplier effect, but we're just not sure exactly what that multiplier is. It also changes depending on the role and the individual factors that don't lend themselves to statistical analysis. It's reasonable to think that the high-leverage relief role of Chamberlain's 2007 approaches a factor of two. Some suggest it may be higher, but a round number works as an example here. His 23 relief innings could be translated out as 46, adding to his 65 as a starter. Assuming he could see 20 more relief innings during September, that's about 150 translated innings. While I wouldn't want to see him going to 200, I'm also not sure a strict reading of the Verducci Effect works here. If Chamberlain started all year and approached 180, I'd worry a bit, but I'm not sure that I'd do what the Yankees are discussing.

Quick Cuts: Yovani Gallardo is throwing simulated games and has a real chance of returning before the season is over. What role he might have remains to be seen. ... Travis Hafner has until the weekend to prove that he's ready, or he'll be shut down. He's been unable to recover quickly enough to play in consecutive games. ... Michael Cuddyer's broken foot is healing slowly, but the Twins still hope he can be activated within the next ten days. He won't play the field soon, but could appear as a pinch-hitter. ... We're still waiting on Evan Longoria to take batting practice. His return will come shortly afterwards. ... Jake Westbrook will have minor hip surgery. He won't lose much time since he's also recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he's on track for a mid-season return. ... Scott Feldman will have his turn skipped in the Rangers rotation; they're watching his innings. ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia won't need surgery, but he is done for the season after injuring his elbow on an awkward throw. ... During my football draft last night, everyone agreed that Joe Nathan looks gassed. ... Justin Duchscherer is using Synvisc in his hip, the first time I've heard of this in baseball, though it's not uncommon in the broader population. Unfortunately, it's usually older people trying to avoid a hip replacement. ... Anyone out there own an Amazon Kindle? ... How perfect is it that it was Alex Rodriguez involved in the first replay? It looks like it worked well, taking just over two minutes, and the world didn't seem to end when it was used.

Related Content:  Joe Crede

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